The varied landscape in Arizona is the stuff holiday vacation dreams are made of — from the pine forests and mountains of Flagstaff to the soaring red rocks of Sedona, every region offers its own special breed of beauty and adventure. Whether you want to spend your Christmas skiing in the San Francisco Peaks, or sunbathing by the pool at one of many Arizona vacation rentals in Phoenix, this versatile state has a spot for you. Amp up the festive fun with a trip to one of these seven towns, which are known for their fun, family-friendly Christmas celebrations.
If you’re searching for an Arizona winter wonderland, Flagstaff fits the bill. Nested into the base of the San Francisco Peaks, this university town buzzes with lively holiday activities. After a day of skiing at the Arizona Snowbowl, head straight for the North Pole Experience at the Little America Hotel. A trolley brings you to Santa’s Workshop, where families can build toys with elves, go to classes at Elf University, visit the sleigh in the Area 47 Sleigh Hangar, and enjoy a private visit with Santa himself. Other Flagstaff events include the Snowflake Festival and the Victorian holiday tours at the Riordan Mansion State Historic Park. If you have time, drive 30 miles west to Williams, where your family can don pajamas for a train ride with Santa on The Polar Express.
Prescott has held the designation of “Arizona’s Christmas City” since 1989, making it one of the top holiday vacation destinations in the state. Each year, this small city kicks off the season with a spectacular lighting display at the courthouse, followed by a breathtaking Christmas Parade. While you’re in town, check out the world’s largest Gingerbread Village at the Prescott Resort and Conference Center. For a fun family treat, check out downtown Christmas light displays with a horse-drawn carriage ride. At the Sharlot Hall Museum Annual Frontier Christmas, experience an old-fashioned celebration, complete with luminary-lined pathways, living history displays in the Fort Misery cabin, and homemade Christmas cookies and cider.
Arizona’s capital city celebrates the holidays in style. Christmas at the Princess features a four-story musical tree, an outdoor desert ice skating rink, train rides, light shoes, and more. Downtown, check out the APS Electric Light Parade and stroll through a magical wonderland at the Phoenix Zoo’s ZooLights event. For a traditional Christmas evening out, attend a performance of The Nutcracker with Ballet Arizona or Handel’s Messiah with the Phoenix Symphony. Get your shopping in at Fashion Square Mall, where the Festival of Trees brings a forest of elaborately decorated Christmas trees creates a fairy-tale atmosphere.
For a peaceful, snowy Christmas on the Mogollon Rim, head straight for Payson. Join the locals at the Swiss Village annual Christmas Lighting, and stay for a cup of hot cider and a visit with Santa. The onsite carnival provides rides and games, and live musical performances makes it easy to get into the holiday spirit. At the annual Electric Light Parade, Main Street comes to life with brilliantly lit floats as carolers provide a classic Christmas atmosphere. Payson also hosts a Holiday House Lighting Contest; enjoy the beauty from the comfort of local vacation rentals, or bundle up for a drive around town to see the lights.
Enjoy the outdoors on your Christmas vacation in spectacular Sedona. As snow dusts the red rocks, experience the magical walk-through Tinsel Town light display at Posse Grounds Park. Every 10 minutes, the trees dance to Christmas songs in a delightful light and music extravaganza. Experience Sedona’s legendary artistic tradition at the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village’s Festival of Trees, and Hillside Holiday Saturdays offers a festive shopping experience, complete with Christmas cookies and carols. Meet Santa at the Sedona tree lighting in Canyon Breeze Plaza, and work off your holiday snacks during the Jingle Bell Run. Other popular local events include Breakfast with Santa at the Sedona Teen Center, the Blazin’ M Ranch Christmas Show, and The Nutcracker at the Sedona Performing Arts Center.
More than 1.5 million Christmas lights shine brightly in Glendale each December as the town celebrates Glendale Glitters. Attend the lighting ceremony Glendale Glitters Spectacular Weekend, which features a visit from Santa, food vendors, and holiday music performances. In December, downtown Glendale comes alive with Christmas music and family games on Holiday Weekends. At the Holiday Open House, your kids can help decorate the community Christmas tree. Don’t miss the chance to see Santa and his elves at the Hometown Christmas Parade, a favorite local tradition. Close out your vacation at the Glitter and Glow Block Party, where a row of enormous, illuminated hot-air balloons stands next to the Christmas lights.
7. Lake Havasu City
Christmas has a British twist in Lake Havasu City, where the English Village and the London Bridge exude old-world charm during the Festival of Lights. Stroll by the water to enjoy the Christmas light displays, visit with Santa, and look out for the carolers that roam the neighborhood. In true Lake Havasu fashion, the festival starts with a swim race across the Bridgewater Channel. All through December, enjoy ice skating with Santa at the London Bridge Resort’s outdoor rink. Later in the month, crowds line the channel to see shining watercraft glide by during the London Bridge Yacht Club’s Annual Boat Parade of Lights.
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